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SEP
8
2017

RESEARCH
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Evaluating afterschool: What my toddler taught me about evaluation

By Guest Blogger

By Allison Riley, PhD, MSW, Senior Vice President, Programming and Evaluation at Girls on the Run International. Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based positive youth development program that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running.

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the seventh installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation and highlights program evaluation best practices. Be sure to take a look at the firstsecondthirdfourthfifth, and sixth posts of the series.

My two-year-old daughter and I like to take walks together when I get home from work. Whether we are headed to see the neighbor’s chickens or visit a friend, we always have some goal in mind when we walk out of the door, though my toddler typically doesn’t take the most direct path. Even if I try to rush her along so we can more quickly reach our destination, she is sure to pause when a good learning opportunity comes her way. When I follow my daughter’s lead, our walks are purposeful yet flexible, and I always learn more, too.

As it turns out, my daughter’s approach to a walk translates well to my workday world. As someone who’s spent my career evaluating youth programming, I have learned the importance of having a clear purpose and goals for a project while being flexible and responsive to information gathered during the evaluation process. Let’s look at a recent Girls on the Run study as an example.

AUG
29
2017

RESEARCH
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New poll finds 9 in 10 parents support schools providing afterschool programs

By Nikki Yamashiro

Last night, the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) released the 2017 Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) Poll of Public's Attitudes Towards Public Schools. The overall takeaway from this report, which is PDK’s 49th annual report on Americans’ views toward public schools, is that there is strong agreement that public schools should provide supports outside of the typical school day. More than 9 in 10 Americans report that they support public schools providing afterschool programs, with 77 percent reporting that they strongly supported schools providing afterschool programs.

Support was also strong for schools providing mental health services (87 percent) and general health services (79 percent). Support was very high for schools seeking additional public funding to pay for these services, with 76 percent of Americans agreeing that schools are justified in seeking additional public funds.

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learn more about: Evaluation and Data
AUG
18
2017

RESEARCH
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Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher, part II

By Guest Blogger

Welcome to part II of our Q&A with Neil Naftzger, American Institutes for Research (AIR), about his evaluation work related to 21st CCLC programs specifically and the afterschool field broadly. Below are answers to oneof the questions we asked, with our emphasis added in bold, which establish that there is in fact clear evidence demonstrating that 21st CCLC work for students. To read part I, click here.

What changes would you like to see in terms of 21st CCLC data collection and evaluation?

This is a big question. First, I think we need to be clear around the purposes we’re trying to support through data collection and evaluation. Normally, we think about this work as falling within three primary categories:

  1. Data to support program staff in learning about quality practice and effective implementation
  2. Data to monitor the participation and progress of enrolled youth
  3. Data to assess the impact of the program on youth that participate regularly in the program

States have done an amazing job over the span of the past decade to develop quality improvement systems predicated on using quality data to improve practice (purpose #1). Effective afterschool quality improvement systems start with a shared definition of quality. In recent years, state 21st CCLC systems have come to rely upon formal assessment tools like the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) and the Assessment of Program Practices Tool (APT-O) to provide that definition, allowing 21st CCLC grantees to assess how well they are meeting these criteria and crafting action plans to intentionally improve the quality of programming. Use of these tools typically involves assigning a score to various program practices in order to quantify the program’s performance and establish a baseline against which to evaluate growth. A recent report completed by AIR indicates approximately 70 percent of states have adopted a quality assessment tool for use by their 21st CCLC grantees. Our sense is that these systems have been critical to enhancing the quality of 21st CCLC programs, and any efforts to modify the 21st CCLC data collection landscape should ensure program staff have the support and time necessary to participate in these important processes.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Evaluation and Data
AUG
14
2017

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How does afterschool contribute to military readiness?

By Leah Silverberg

U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue

In 2016, the Council for a Strong America released America Unprepared, showing data that more than 70 percent of young adults in the United States would not qualify for military service due to obesity and other health issues, poor academic performance, drug abuse, or involvement in crime. As a solution to this lack of “citizen-readiness,” the council suggested support for voluntary home-visiting programs, high quality early education, science-based nutrition standards for school foods, and the reinstitution of physical education programs.

We have one more suggestion: quality afterschool programs. Many afterschool programs are already tackling the issues of health and wellness, academic achievement, and child safety.

Fighting fit

60 percent of young adults are overweight or obese. For the military, this translates to 31 percent of all young adults who apply to serve being disqualified from service. Furthermore, lifetime obesity is determined during school-age years. While obesity remains a large problem in the United States, the percentage of schools that require students to take physical education has declined to only 77 percent.

AUG
2
2017

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AFT poll shows opposition to federal funding cuts to education

By Nikki Yamashiro

The clear message coming out of a recent national poll on attitudes toward federal education spending is that voters are overwhelmingly opposed to the federal government cutting funds for public education.

In the poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates for the American Federation of Teachers, close to 3 in 4 voters say that they are opposed to the Trump administration’s proposal to cut federal spending on education by 13.5 percent while “cutting taxes for large corporations and wealthy individuals” and 73 percent say that they find this to be an unacceptable way to reduce spending by the federal government. When asked about the proposed elimination of funding for afterschool and summer learning programs, more than 7 in 10 voters responded that it was an unacceptable cut.

JUL
28
2017

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Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher

By Guest Blogger

In May, the proposed FY2018 budget eliminated funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding stream dedicated to before-school, afterschool, and summer learning programs. In the budget, a justification given for the elimination of funding was that there is no demonstrable evidence that 21st CCLC programs have a positive impact on the students attending the programs. Although we have highlighted the existing body of research underscoring the difference 21st CCLC programs are making in the lives of students participating in programs, we decided to go directly to the source, asking someone who has conducted evaluations on 21st CCLC programs for 14 years. 

We posed a few questions to Neil Naftzger, American Institutes for Research (AIR), about his evaluation work related to 21st CCLC programs specifically, and the afterschool field broadly. Below are answers to two of the questions we asked, with our emphasis added in bold, which establish that there is in fact clear evidence demonstrating that 21st CCLC work for students. 

What are the strongest findings across your research on 21st CCLC programs? Do you see any important non-academic benefits from afterschool and summer learning programs?

JUL
10
2017

RESEARCH
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New resources for STEM in afterschool from the Research + Practice Collaboratory

By Leah Silverberg

Check it out: the Research + Practice Collaboratory has some new and updated resources for the afterschool field! If you are not familiar, the Research + Practice Collaboratory works to bridge the gap between education research and STEM education implementation. The Collaboratory’s goal is to increase communication and partnerships between educators and researchers to promote the co-development research-based tools that are grounded in practice.

Case study teaches research and collaboration through tinkering

In a recent blog post, Jean Ryoo from the Exploratorium talks about her partnership with in-school and out-of-school time practitioners to create a conference presentation for school administrators and in-school and afterschool educators. The presentation was intended as an opportunity for afterschool professionals to share ideas with the larger education community and showcase collaboration across institutions, research, and teaching.

JUL
5
2017

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Evaluating afterschool: Building an evaluation advisory board

By Guest Blogger

By Jason Spector, Senior Research & Evaluation Manager at After-School All-Stars

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the sixth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation and highlights program evaluation best practices. Be sure to take a look at the firstsecondthird, fourth, and fifth posts of the series.

When I joined After-School All-Stars (ASAS) in 2014, I represented the sole member of our research and evaluation department. It was a great opportunity to craft a vision, and one that I greeted with excitement, but there was definitely anxiety as well. I was fresh out of grad school—learning how to operate in a national organization while also feeling siloed. To help break down the silos, our leadership encouraged me to develop a board of strategic advisors.

During the last few years, the National Evaluation Advisory Board has played a critical role in helping us grow our department, craft a vision for our work, develop a language and strategy around our program quality assessment, deepen our evidence base, and advance the intentionality of our program model. It’s a resource I highly recommend for organizations who are looking to become more strategic in their work.

If you decide to form your own evaluation advisory board, here are four key ideas to keep in mind:

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learn more about: Evaluation and Data Guest Blog